Region’s water and food security at stake . . .
The water levels of the Mekong River, Southeast Asia’s longest river, have dropped to their lowest point in more than 100 years. The impacts from climate change such as severe droughts and delayed monsoon rains, as well as dam-building activities upstream, are the main culprits. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed the issue during his August 1 speech at the annual foreign ministerial meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Bangkok. Pompeo called China’s activities, such as dam construction and dredging, “troubling” and criticized it for exerting too much “control over downstream flows.”
Toothless oversight . . .
The 4,350-km-long Mekong flows through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam before emptying into the South China Sea. It is also a place where trans-border water security governance is constantly being tested. Over the past several years, concerns have been mounting that the hydro-power dams upriver in China and Laos are causing severe water shortages and endangering food security downstream, impacting the livelihood of more than 60 million people. There are currently 12 institutions tasked with managing co-operation in the sub-region, but most of them focus on dialogue and lack the capacity to be truly effective.
Security and sustainability at stake . . .
Despite the Mekong’s vital role in the region, the issue of this historically-low water level has gained far less international attention than has the South China Sea, which is one of the most talked-about security flash-points in the world today, with regional competition over resource development a significant factor in the conflict. More effective solutions for the management and development of water and other resources along the Mekong will be vital to the sub-region’s future security and sustainability.
- Asian Vision Institute: Mekong Connect
- National Geographic: Mekong River at its lowest in 100 years, threatening food supply
- The Hill: Pompeo hits China over Mekong River dams